Prince Charles meets Sinn Fein leader in Ireland for the first time
Britain's Prince Charles. left, shakes hands with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams at the National University of Ireland in Galway, Ireland, Tuesday May 19, 2015. (Brian Lawless / Pool photo via AP)
The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, May 19, 2015 11:28AM EDT
DUBLIN — Prince Charles offered a historic handshake Tuesday to Gerry Adams, longtime leader of the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party and reputedly an Irish Republican Army commander when the outlawed group killed the prince's great-uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, in 1979.
The peacemaking gesture marked the first time that Adams, Sinn Fein's leader since 1983, had ever met a member of the British royal family.
The two men, both 66, clasped hands for several seconds in a crowded reception hall at the National University of Ireland in Galway. Their meeting came at the start of Charles' four-day trip to the Republic of Ireland and the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland.
Adams twice leaned in closely to Charles to speak into his ear as both men smiled amid a flurry of camera flashes. He and Charles later had a 15-minute meeting away from the cameras, accompanied by Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness and other party officials.
When asked if he had offered an apology on behalf of his movement for Mountbatten's assassination, Adams sidestepped the question. He noted that three other people, including a 14-year-old grandson of Mountbatten and 15-year-old Northern Ireland boy, were killed when the IRA used a remote-control bomb to blow up Mountbatten's yacht in the fishing village of Mullaghmore.
"One couldn't help but be regretful about the loss, particularly when there are children involved," Adams said.
But he and McGuinness said they had raised with the prince the need for further investigations into a series of 1970s killings of Catholic civilians by British troops.
"Both he and we expressed regret at what had happened from 1968 onwards," Adams said, referring to the first year of the Northern Ireland conflict, when rising street confrontations between Protestant-dominated security forces and Catholic protesters led the following year to the deployment of British troops and the rise of the modern IRA.
"We didn't ask anybody in that room to apologize for anything," McGuinness said.